Onward is set in the suburban fantasy world of New Mushroom where elves, fairies, manticore, centaurs, unicorns, dragons and a whole host of other fantasy creatures all live normal domesticated lives, working normal jobs and going to school etc. This world has forgotten about magic, as it seems that since science came along and progressed, magic was seen as too much effort to learn and over the centuries has a become myth and legend.
One person who still longs for those days is Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt) who plays “Quests of Yore” (think Dungeons and Dragons – in fact if you enjoy D&D keep your eyes peeled as I am sure the movie is full of references) that he views as historical research rather than a meaningless hobby. Barley lives with his younger brother, Ian (voiced by Tom Holland), and his mother Laurel (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfuss). Barley and Ian’s father Wilden (Kyle Bornheimer) died when Ian was young.
As we join the Lightfoot’s Ian is celebrating his sixteenth birthday and Laurel produces a special present Wilden left for them when they were older. Ian unwraps it and it turns out to be a wizard’s staff, an accompanying spell, and a Phoenix stone. It turns out Wilden left the boys a spell that can conjure up their father for a twenty-four-hour visit for him to see how they’ve grown up. Unfortunately, something goes wrong with the spell and their father is only partially materialised (the bottom half) and the brothers head off on a quest to complete the spell so that they can finally have the proper final moments with their dad that they never really knew before.
Pixar have be no strangers in pulling the heart strings and Onward gives them a big yank right at the start of the movie and in some ways do not let up through the film. This is the biggest strength and weakness of the movie as the heartache replaces the laughter and enjoyment for the majority of the time. That’s not to say the usual Pixar fun is not present, it sure is – with millions of reference, sight gags, and things you will spot on re-watches but the raw emotion of the story over powers them.
Verdict: 7/10. This will not be remembered as the greatest Pixar film but the characters are great and well developed. I would definitely like to see Barley and Ian on further adventures, just without the deep emotional baggage that came with this movie, which you will definitely feel along with the characters.